Writing a 60,000 word novel can be daunting enough. For some of us, thinking about the mountains of research and details that need to be accumulated and sorted before the novel can be written? That's just downright terrifying.
The reality is that the story the readers experience is like the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of the content remains hidden. It's this hidden stuff we call world building. For some writers, world building is a trap and a distraction that prevents them from ever writing the story. Word building becomes the end all and be all!
For others, the thought of world building wakes us up at night with cold sweats. Either way, all of us will need to wrangle with world building to some extent or another, and StoryShop was built with this reality in mind.
Swimming in an Ocean of Gelatin
The biggest challenge of world building is two fold. The first piece is finding a system to input and manage the massive amount of details that range from characters to settings to events to technologies to resources and make all this information accessible to the writing process. This piece requires flexibility, intuitive organization, and ease of use.
The second piece is the ability to update and sift the information once it has been created and organized. This piece requires intelligence and interconnectivity of the information. This duel-faceted challenge is where StoryShop flexes its muscle.
Inputing and Organizing Your World Details
To genuinely leverage StoryShop's world building tools, you need to start with the World Wizard. Whether you are importing a manuscript from another source or you've started the project on StoryShop before doing your world building, the World Wizard can help you generate dozens of world cards in a few minutes.
Once you start the wizard, it analyses your manuscript and creates a list of all the proper nouns and unidentified nouns that seem likely to represent world elements. The Wizard then leads you through the process of creating cards based on these nouns. If your manuscript contains multiple names for a single character, such as "Captain Stud Muffin" and "Cap'n Muffin" and "Muffy," the Wizard allows you to assign one of the cards as the character and the others as aliases of that character.
If you come across a place name, you can assign it as a setting. The same goes for any other world card category. Once you've used the World Wizard to jump start your world bar, there are two additional main methods of generating world cards.
If you prefer to do the world building before you start writing, the best way to create world cards will be to simply click the plus on the world bar and start filling each one out. If you need to keep certain cards open while you create others, click the "pop-out" icon to open those cards as separate windows in your browser.
If you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants and create your world bar as you go, we've got you covered. Highlight any word or phrase in the text of the main editor and click the "create world card" icon on the highlighted text menu to generate a new card with the title of the highlighted text (a popup menu will ask you to select the category you want the card to go into). Now you can either keep writing or take a moment to click on the card and fill out more details.
Organizing and accessing the World Bar
As you add more and more world cards, you'll watch your world bar grow. If you write like I do, with multiple series all in the same world, the volume and size of the world bar can appear as if it is getting out of control. Never fear! StoryShop was built with this in mind.
At the top of the world bar you'll see the name of your word with a little caret icon next to it. Click that caret to sort your world bar by world, series, or book. If you are working in a certain book and you don't care to see the world cards not referenced in that book, sort your world bar by that book and presto! All the other cards will disappear!
Still have too many cards to quickly scan through them? Use the search box to find the name, tag, or alias for any specific card. You can also use the search box to bring up multiple cards. Perhaps you've designated every character in a certain organization with an identifying tag. Search for that identifier in the search box, and now your world bar will contain every character in that organization.
While you can drag and drop world cards from one category to another, you cannot yet reorganize the cards within a category. Perhaps we'll add that ability in our next major rollout.
Tracking and Changing World Elements
The reason you are able to sort your world bar to display certain cards is due to StoryShop's ability to track each and every appearance of every card by scanning the text for the name and aliases of the cards. This is the "smart" element of StoryShop's world building.
For the time being, there isn't much you can do with this tracking from the user end. You can pull up a list of all the appearances on the world card itself. But clicking these appearances doesn't yet take you to that place in the text.
With the next major update to StoryShop, these appearances will also hyperlink to the world cards and to any mention of the world cards in the story-planning mode of StoryShop. The importance of laying down this "smart" foundation is so that in the future you will be able to simply change the name of a world card and as a result the name will change throughout the text and your story-planning. No muss, no fuss. Or if you decide to move a scar from the cheek to the forehead on a character, you'll be able to quickly access every place in the text where the scar appears on the cheek and fix the text manually.
All of this "smart" tracking becomes even more important for those of us who write collaboratively. It is hard enough to keep up with all the stuff I create. Forget about remembering all the changes made by my co-writers. Future versions of StoryShop will strive toward keeping track of all these changes for you and alerting you when there is a conflict.
My hope is that these tools will help you streamline your process and be able to write better stories faster. Maybe StoryShop can help reduce your anxiety over world building. Or, if you're already in love with world building, hopefully we can enrich your love that much more! Get out there and expand worlds!